Republicans in the House and Senate are having active discussions about passing legislation to stop President Barack Obama from acting unilaterally on immigration, as part of a broader bill to fund the federal government.
The talks have occurred even as Obama and GOP leaders have issued warnings to each other on immigration. On Wednesday, Obama said he would move ahead with his executive action, which could create legal status for millions of illegal immigrants, by the end of the year.
GOP leaders, in contrast, have warned that this would be an unlawful move that would immediately make it impossible for the new Republican Congress and the White House to work together next year.
According to a Senate aide, Republicans are considering a few possible approaches for using the government spending bill as a lever to stop Obama. Government funding runs out in mid-December, which means Congress will be forced to pass some kind of spending bill by then.
First, many Republicans are already pushing to add language to the spending bill that prohibits the White House from using any federal funds to implement Obama's planned immigration announcement.
The administration has hinted its plan will revolve around expanding green cards for millions of illegal immigrants, although it's not yet known exactly what Obama might announce. Still, language could be written to prevent any action that in any way confers a legal status on illegal immigrants.
According to the Senate aide, some conservatives want to pass that language in the House, and then push it to the Senate, where Democratic leaders will be forced to confront the issue in order to approve more government spending.
If the Democratic Senate rejects the House proposal, Republicans have a fallback plan. The aide said a next step could be to approve a short-term spending bill that has no language on immigration. This would be more likely to pass the Senate, and if it did, it would require Congress take up spending again early next year.
Republicans retook the Senate in this week's midterm elections, and that means a GOP-led House and GOP-led Senate would be charged with considering the spending bill early next year. It is believed that Republicans would have a much greater chance next year of approving a new spending bill that puts limits on Obama's ability to act unilaterally on immigration.
However, the aide stressed that if this fallback option were pursued, GOP leaders would have to make a firm commitment that they would attach some language on immigration to the spending bill early next year.
Obama's remarks has refocused Republican efforts to stop Obama's immigration move, just days after Republicans won big in the midterm elections. Some Republicans are worried GOP leaders may not want to add any language on immigration to the spending bill.
But GOP members of the House and Senate are working to convince their leaders of this need. A House aide confirmed to TheBlaze that Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) is putting together a letter to be released next week that calls on the House to add immigration language, and that letter is already thought to have signatures from several dozen Republicans.
Regardless of the immigration debate, many Republicans are known to favor a short-term spending bill, again because it would let a GOP-led House and Senate take up spending early next year, and give Republicans more of a say over the direction and level of spending.